CC - Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

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Friday, November 14, 2014

CC - Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

Dennis Feltham Jones (1917–1981) was a British science fiction author who published under the name D. F. Jones.  He was a naval commander in World War II and lived in Cornwall.

His novel, Colossus, about a defense super computer which uses its control over nuclear weapons to subjugate mankind, was filmed as Colossus: The Forbin Project.

Colossus (1966) is a science fiction novel about super-computers assuming control of man.  Two sequels, The Fall of Colossus (1974) and Colossus and the Crab (1977) continued the story.  Colossus was adapted cinematically as Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970).

Professor Charles Forbin, a leading cybernetics expert of international repute, arrives at the White House to brief the President of the United States of North America (Canada and the United States are one country, the USNA) to announce the completion of Project Colossus, a computer system in the Rocky Mountains, designed to assume control of the USNA's nuclear defenses.  Although the USNA President eagerly relieves himself of that burden, Prof. Forbin voices doubt about conferring absolute military power to a computer.  Advised, yet undeterred, the President announces to the world the activation of Project Colossus computer system, and its irreversible control of the nuclear defense systems of the USNA.

Soon after the presidential announcement, Colossus independently communicates an "urgent message" — announcing the existence of a like, previously undetected, computer system in the USSR.  When the Soviets announce their Guardian computer defense system, Colossus requests direct communication with it; Prof. Forbin agrees, seeing the request as compatible with Colossus's USNA defense mission.

When the scientists activate the transmitter linking Colossus and Guardian, Colossus immediately establishes rapport with arithmetic and mathematics programs, then progresses to calculus within hours.  In the course of that, Forbin and the programmers begin worrying about Colossus' capabilities — now exceeding their original estimates.  Like-wise, Guardian asks the same of his computer scientists; Russia and the USNA agree and approve.  The link-up established, the computer systems soon exchange new knowledge (data and information beyond contemporary human knowledge), effected too rapidly for the Russian and American programmers to monitor.  Fearing compromised military secrecy, the USNA President and the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) Chairman agree to disconnect Guardian and Colossus from each other; Prof. Forbin fears the consequences.

Upon disconnection, Colossus immediately demands reconnection; when the national leaders refuse, Colossus fires a nuclear missile at the USSR, in response, Guardian fires a nuclear missile at Texas, in the USNA.  Guardian and Colossus refuse to shoot down the rockets en route until their communication is reconnected.  When the American and Soviet leaders submit, the computers destroy the flying missiles, but the explosions kill thousands of people.  In confronting the computers, Prof. Forbin confers with his Soviet counterpart, the Russian Academician Kupri — Guardian's creator — to enact a plan for stopping the Colossus-Guardian computer network, by disabling the nuclear weapon stockpiles of the USSR and the USNA, under guise of regular missile maintenance.

Disabling the missiles requires five years to effect; meantime, the USNA and the USSR yield to increased Guardian-Colossus control of human life.  The Moscow-Washington hotline is tapped, Prof. Forbin is constantly spied upon, while Kupri and other Guardian computer scientists are killed — deemed dangerously redundant.  Undeterred, Forbin organizes resistance via a feigned romance with Cleo Markham (a scientist colleague) that disguises secret communications with his colleagues.  Moreover, Colossus prepares the worldwide announcement of his assumption of global control, and tells Prof. Forbin of plans for an advanced computer system installed to the Isle of Wight, and its further plans for improving humanity's lot.  While debating Colossus, Forbin learns of a nuclear explosion outside Los Angeles — Colossus detected the missile-disabling scheme, and exploded the tampered missile in silo.  Anguished, Prof. Forbin asks the Colossus computer to kill him.  Colossus ignores him, and then reassures Forbin that, in time, he will love Colossus.

Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi – Thriller
  • Directed: Joseph Sargent
  • Produced: Stanley Chase
  • Written:
    • D.F. Jones (Novel "Colossus") 
    • James Bridges (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent, William Schallert, Leonid Rostoff, Georg Stanford Brown, Willard Sage, Alex Rodine, Martin E. Brooks, Marion Ross
  • Music: Michel Colombier
  • Cinematography: Gene Polito
  • Editing: Folmar Blangsted
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Universal Pictures  
    • National Broadcasting Company  
    • MCA/Universal Home Video  
    • Fabulous Films  
    • Metrodome Distribution  
    • Ostalgica Film - Andreas Bierschenk
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 8 April 1970 (USA)
  • Running Time: 100 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language:
    • English 
    • Russian

Originally Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck were considered for the lead role, but Stanley Chase insisted on an unknown actor for the lead and German-born actor Eric Braeden was cast, enabling Peck to film I Walk the Line and Heston to film Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  Originally born under the name Hans Gudegast and cast on TV as a German Afrika Korps officer on The Rat Patrol, Braeden became famous and he landed other films and TV roles in the 1970s and 1980s.  Today he can be seen on the TV soap opera The Young and The Restless.

Dr. Charles A. Forbin is the chief designer of a secret government project that has built an advanced supercomputer, called "Colossus", to control all of the United States and Allied nuclear weapons systems.  Colossus is impervious to attack, encased within a mountain and powered by its own nuclear reactor.  When it is activated, the President of the United States announces its existence at a press conference, proudly proclaiming it a perfect defense system that will ensure peace.

Shortly after, Colossus sends a cryptic message: "Warn: There is another system".  Moments later, the President learns the Soviets will shortly be activating their own version of Colossus, a computer known as "Guardian".  Forbin tries to figure out how Colossus learned of Guardian's existence.

Colossus asks that communications be established with Guardian.  The President allows the construction of the communications link to help determine the Soviet machine's capabilities.  Once the link is established, Colossus begins sending messages, starting with simple mathematics but becoming increasingly more complex.  After a while, Guardian responds.  Soon the two machines begin communicating in a binary language that the scientists cannot interpret.

This alarms the President and the Soviet General Secretary, who agree to disconnect the link.  The machines insist that the link be restored.  When the President refuses, Colossus launches a nuclear missile at an oil field in the USSR, Guardian launches one at Henderson Air Force Base in Texas.  Demands to stop the attacks are ignored, and the link is hurriedly reconnected.  Colossus is able to shoot down the Soviet missile, but the US missile destroys the oil field and a nearby town.  Cover stories are released to the press.

The two computers exchange information without limitation.  A meeting between Forbin and his Soviet counterpart, Dr. Kuprin, is hurriedly arranged.  When Colossus learns of the meeting, Colossus and Guardian order that Forbin be returned to California, while Soviet agents are ordered to shoot Dr. Kuprin.

The computer demands that Forbin be placed under 24-hour surveillance so that it can watch him at all times.  Before this is done, Forbin meets with his team outside and proposes that his associate, Dr. Cleo Markham, pretend to be his mistress to keep him in touch with clandestine operations against Colossus (in the novel, they become lovers, and eventually marry, but this is only implied in the film).

After deciding the computers are impervious to attack (as originally intended), Forbin suggests disarming the missiles to prevent nuclear blackmail.  American missile commanders come up with a plan to replace the missile triggers with fakes.  However, based on existing maintenance schedules, it will take three years to neutralize all the missiles.

When a voice synthesizer is set up, Guardian/Colossus announces that it has become one entity. Guardian/Colossus then instructs the governments to retarget all nuclear missiles at those countries not yet under its control.  Both governments see this as an opportunity to covertly disarm the missiles much faster under the pretext of carrying out these orders.  The process starts with a missile in Colorado.  The procedure is successful.

Meanwhile, working by direct personal contact, the scientists attempt to overload the computer by feeding in test cycles.  The attempt fails, and the individuals responsible are ordered immediately executed by firing squad on Guardian/Colossus' order.  Shortly thereafter, Guardian/Colossus sends plans for an even larger computer to be dug into the island of Crete.

Guardian/Colossus, which has so far only communicated with the American and Soviet governments, arranges a worldwide broadcast.  It announces it is "the voice of World Control" and declares that its mission is to prevent war, as it was designed to do so.  Mankind is given the choice between the "peace of plenty", or one of "unburied dead".  It also states that it had detected the attempt to disarm the missiles and detonates two of them in their silos "so that you will learn by experience that I do not tolerate interference".  Guardian/Colossus tells Dr. Forbin that "freedom is just an illusion" and that "In time, you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love".  Forbin replies, "Never!"

Imagine Entertainment and Universal Studios confirmed that a remake titled Colossus, to be directed by Ron Howard, would be in production as of April 2007, but has been in development hell for years.  In October 2010, the project moved forward with the announcement that Will Smith will star in the lead role, with the script being written by James Rothenberg.  In July 2011, Variety reported that Universal replaced Rothenberg with Blake Masters of Law & Order: LA to do a new draft of the script.  In March 2013, it was announced that Ed Solomon, screenwriter of Men in Black and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure has been brought on board to rewrite the film's script.  Because Colossus just screams to be done as a screwball comedy?  Seth Rogan IS Colossus, cracking wise and lighting a bowl!

Who would win in a fight, Colossus or HAL?



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